Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Maybe a weird conversation from your primary care provider, but you would be amazed by how much this issue impacts one's health! A new partner who has a very different relationship to food than you or who has a very different activity level may make you vulnerable to rapid weight gain, which may sneak up on you quicker than you may realize. New relationships are also opportunities which test your boundaries, because we often leave previous relationships with the belief we should have compromised more often. Maybe there is a big void that needs filled and we aren't quite emotionally healed, so our relationships repeat the habits established in previous toxic relationships. This can challenge our beliefs in ourselves, causing us to martyr ourselves, lose trust in our gut, and set us up for depression and even chronic illness.
It can be difficult to really slow down and invest in ourselves post-relationship, particularly when those prior relationships were long and arduous. Like so many areas of our lives, we seek the quick fix as opposed to really digging in and doing the work required for long term success. Our more modern dating culture though can make it even more difficult to really open ourselves up and be present with those we meet. My thought is that dating doesn't have to be, and quite frankly, shouldn't be a nightmare. My thoughts are these...
Know What You Want
When I first left my marriage, and I began to consider future possibilities, I had a list of only two desires. After my first failed relationship post-divorce, which consisted of me doing all the giving and compromising, my list grew to nearly two pages in length. I recognized the man from my previous relationship wasn't even my type. I was simply hoping to prove successful in a relationship having so much guilt about my failed marriage.
I called it my list of non-negotiables, and interestingly, as I've met various people and ask about their non-negotiables, very few have even considered this ideal. What are your deal breakers? Write them down before the excitement of a new relationship distorts your perspective. You've been there before I am sure, when you meet someone new and they are exciting and interesting, but then something comes up that sort of hits you in the gut. Your intuitive defenses are alerted, but because you are still healing and needing this to work, you dismiss this. Guess what though? Not honoring those intuitive senses teaches your body that you won't honor yourself. A warning signal was offered and you ignored it. You failed to show up and protect yourself, which is how we lose faith in ourselves. This behavior long term will create a significant distrust in ourself, and we'll fail to recognize our own worth, compromising and martyring ourselves for others.
Don't fret. My list did shorten as I came to know more people and learned that relationships are complex. What may seem like an unacceptable quality in one person, looks and feels different from another. Learning to honor those gut feelings is really the essence of this awareness. Ultimately what we seek is someone who brings out the best in us. We can see if this person is right for us and is healthy, by how we respond and by who we become in that relationship.
Know Your Worth
Once you've created your list of non-negotiables though, honor it. Trust me, I know the challenge this creates. You can meet the exact right person, who really ignites your chemistry, but maybe they are an alcoholic and you realize, it will break your heart every day to see them harm themself. Not to mention, those with addictions will always have someone or something that is more important than you. Aren't you worth more? And no, you can't heal them. This is their work to do alone.
Dating mindfully requires you walk away from a lot of really lovely people. Read that again because that is a really tough one to swallow. Everyone is worthy of love, but it is up to you to know the difference between where you should and should not invest your energy. Your partner should improve your life, and your giving should come from your overflow. Invest in yourself first.
Acknowledge the Worth of Everyone You Date
You are going on dates with feeling, thinking, and precious human beings. If you are treating the people you meet like experiments, distractions, or collateral damage for your growth, there's a problem. And you're likely to attract people who are going to treat you the same way. Even if they are incapable of more, you can be and should align yourself with those who are able to contribute in a healthy way. Similarly, if someone is clear about what you are looking for, and you are not it, honor that. If you expect others to treat you with respect and honesty, you must do them the same courtesy.
I often hear people complain about the "men" who ghost women (both sexes do this), but in reality, these are the ones you can be grateful for because for whatever reason, they weren't the right fit for you, and this isn't a reflection on you. The "guy" you have to be real cautious of is the one who disappears or who doesn't match your effort but then comes back a few days later to bait you. It's hard not to think maybe he has seen the light and is ready to truly engage, so you offer more energy; you invest again. Then he disappears yet again and keeps you hanging. These "men" are never going to match what you're offering. You aren't too high-maintenance. These are the low effort "men." Learn to match effort.
Connect with the Real Person in Front of You
Love doesn't make you blind, but the ego-driven narrative always will. Yep, that hurts me too. I've done this... more than once. I can fall in love with my imagination and it's amazing how imaginative I can be about a person. When mindfulness is absent from our dating experiences, we often end up crafting stories about the people we meet, instead of seeing them as they are presenting themselves to us. Journaling is an absolute must for me while #dating for this exact reason. I specifically note every single little tingle in my gut so I can catch consistency and not talk myself out of my current reality.
Respond to the way your dates treat you now, not how you expect or want them to treat you in the future. Another layer of this is to check your pedestals at the dating door. No one is flawless or without their unique blend of fears, insecurities and baggage. If you are looking for a partner to accept all of you, then the same applies to your willingness to allow them grace.
Don't Take Things Personally
Not too long ago a really good friend of mine got a nasty email from his prior landlord, claiming all sorts of ridiculous damages to the apartment he had rented and her unwillingness to return his damage deposit. He was beyond devastated and it spun him into near depression. Why? Because it wasn't this issue that hurt him to the core; he knew at the onset he wasn't getting his deposit back. She has a reputation. Rather, it was his history of abuse in previous relationships that resurfaced. His previous partners had made up realities and blamed him for situations he knew he wasn't responsible for (gaslighting) and so this situation, his loss of his security deposit, was more a trigger of old hurt than it really had anything to do with her accusations. It can be hard to step back and say, "No, those things you've accused me of are not accurate. I don't identify with what you've said. That is not reality. Your behavior right now and your statements are not about me."
I had the same happen to me after only a few dates with a particular man. He had a behavior that I didn't quite understand, and admittedly, it wasn't even that significant. I was simply working to understand and he responded to my questions in full attack, calling me 37 different curse words. Yes, I counted. I was absolutely flabbergasted. It was also the first time I read an attack like that and said to myself, with confidence, "I don't identify with that. I am not sure who you're talking to or if you're working through old issues with previous relationships, but you aren't describing me." This makes it easier to step away from scenarios like these without feeling completely crushed. Certainly there are times though, that these scenarios with some self-reflection will demonstrate you still have areas you may need to address as well.
The only way to build real connections with other people is to show them your brightest, unhindered self. Be open about what you want. Offer them #authenticity. Be honest with yourself and share with them what feels right to you. Reframe rejections and "missed opportunities" as guidance. Trust that if you are operating from your highest good, you are being guided toward those that are aligned with you, and away from those that are not.